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Invasive Species
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-107-2
Genre: Dark Fantasy/Suspense/Thriller
eBook Length: 192 Pages
Published: June 2013

From inside the flap

They are credited with driving the dinosaurs to extinction. To wiping out Atlantis, and the original Roanoke, Virginia colony. And all the signs point to another demon migration striking somewhere in the near future.

Clarence Kittles (CK) doesnít want to deal with that. He works as a close-up magician and it is nearing tourist season in Willow Bay, Ohio, his busy season. But when the leader of his coven summons him, he has no choice. And he soon learns that he not only must try to learn when and how the migration will occur, but also avoid whoever is trying to kill all the magicians who might be able to do just that. For someone wants the deadly migration to occur. And CK may fall victim along with thousands of others.

Combining a unique plot, memorable characters, humor and horror, Invasive Species is a delight for all lovers of fantasyÖand another novel not to be missed by award-winning author Patrick Welch.

Invasive Species (Excerpt)

Chapter One

It was a typical summer Friday night at Olsonís Inboard. Happy diners occupied all the tables, the wait staff was struggling to keep up with the flow, and the owner, Jeffrey Olson, was greeting each patron with a smile and a pleasantry. With the regulars he was probably sincere.

I tried to appear sincere as well as I made my way from table to table performing close-up magic. In some ways, working in a restaurant is not ideal for a magician. Some patrons want to enjoy their meal in peace, or spend their time in intimate conversation. They donít always appreciate an old guy dressed in a tux showing its age suddenly appearing before them and shoving a deck of cards under their noses.

Which is one reason why I wear a single gold earring. Most men in their sixties eschew such adornments. I normally do as well, but this earring is special. It allows me to hear even the most muted conversations in any corner of the restaurant. It was the reason I was approaching a particular couple now. I had overheard the man whisper to their waitress that his wife was celebrating her birthday. The server would tell me anyway, but itís always more effective - and mysterious - to acknowledge the good news without obvious prompting.

As soon as the waitress had left, I arrived and stood behind the birthday girl. "So how are we this evening? Enjoying your meal, I trust?"

The man nodded. "Most excellent. I see why our friends told us to come here."

"You have very good taste in friends. And you, young lady," I tapped the woman on the shoulder, "I understand youíre celebrating a special day!"

She blushed while her husband smiled. "Yes," he said, "itís her birthday."

I looked at her for a second as if appraising her. "I wonít try to guess your age," I said, which brought another blush and a giggle, "but I surmise you enjoy roses." I took off my hat, reached in and withdrew a bouquet of roses. "For you, my dear," I said with a bow.

She blushed again. "Oh, my, I donít know what to say."

"No need. Birthdays must be celebrated. After all, we enjoy so few of them."

She looked up. A single tear ran down her cheek, which I took as a sign of gratitude. "Thank you so much."

"Yes, thank you," said her husband and he held out his hand.

I shook it, then walked away, my work done. When I opened my hand, however, I found her husband had passed me a twenty-dollar bill. Since the flowers cost me nearly nothing, that little encounter was highly profitable.

Not every engagement ends so fortunately for me, of course. Yes, I get paid to perform, but in a small establishment like Olsonís, you canít expect to earn several hundred a night, even in the midst of the tourist season. So tips from the patrons are a vital portion of my income, one that is erratic at best. A few of the regulars tip me every visit, but they are rare. Most of the locals, especially in the summer, donít tip me at all. I donít perform at their tables that often.

The tourists are a mixed bag. One thing I learned quickly was not to judge by appearances, especially by clothing. People who visit Willow Bay are here to take the ferries to the islands or to enjoy the entertainment in town. Nearly everyone dresses casually - shorts and T-shirts are the great equalizers. Notoriously bad tippers like doctors and lawyers donít change their stripes because theyíre on vacation, so I try to avoid them whenever possible, assuming I can discern them. Some tourists donít understand the concept at all. They assume that since the owner is paying me, I should perform at their table without additional recompense. Theyíre not entirely wrong, but if I sense their hands wonít be reaching for their wallets, Iíll cut my performance short.

And then there are the smart asses, the ones who think they know how I perform every trick. You never know when youíll come across one. Sometimes theyíre kids, usually bratty boys who bought some magic apparatus online and have aspirations to be the next David Copperfield. I usually smile encouragement and ask to see what they can do and inevitably they left the device at home and have no more magical talent than a pebble. Older adolescents and adults, however, can cause the real problems. They will perform a card or coin trick, often similar to what I just did, and often they are at least competent. But they donít really trouble me, either. The ones that do are the geniuses who think they can tell me how I did a trick or try to explain the "illusion" to their date or friends.

That was happening this very evening as I was enjoying a break at the bar. I perform in half hour blocks with equal breaks for several reasons. One is that I donít want to wear out my welcome, or continue to distract diners who really arenít interested in my performance. But it also allows for customer turnover, the lifeblood of any restaurant and a potential new source of income for me. I can vary my act as much as I need to, but the saying "one to a customer" is nearly gospel when it comes to tableside magic. And if they tipped me once, they arenít going to do so again.

So I was relaxing with a glass of chardonnay when a young man tapped me on the shoulder. "Yes?" I asked, turning.

"I think I know how you did it," he said proudly.

I studied him briefly. Mid-twenties, tall and well built. Probably prided himself on working out at a gym three days a week. Medium length dark brown hair spiked on top for some unknowable reason, and dressed in Izod, Dockers and Top-Siders, the preferred attire of young professional boaters. A few years from college, working a good-paying job for someone his age and thinking he was on the fast track to success and an early, rich retirement. He was already irritating me. "Which trick? I do so many, you know."

"The balloon. The one you filled with helium."

He was referring to when I blow up a balloon as if to tie a balloon animal, but when I finish it starts to float away and I have to make a great show to seize it before it escapes to the ceiling. I had performed that trick several times over the evening, so I still couldnít place him. "Oh. Youíre a magician, then."

"No," and he smiled shyly. "I donít have the patience to learn card tricks and so forth. Or maybe itís my lack of coordination. But I read up on them, on the Internet. Just for grins. I admit yours is somewhat unique, but I think I know how you do it."

I gave what I hoped was an encouraging smile. "Enlighten me."

He shook himself as if steeling his nerve. "Okay. You have a tube in your sleeve running from a small container of helium in your coat out to your wrist. When you pretend to inflate the balloon, you actually attach the balloon to the tube and turn on the container. It looks like youíre blowing up the balloon but youíre not. Once the balloon is full you tie it off and - voila - a helium balloon." He grinned. "Am I right?"

"You figured that all out yourself?"

"Yes," and he stuck out his chest.

I shrugged. "What you describe should probably work."

"What I thought." He turned. "Joe, you owe me a drink. Itís just like I told you!"

I frowned. "Drink? Joe? Am I missing something?"

Instead the young man waved and we were quickly joined by another who could almost pass as his twin. Then he looked at me. "Tell him. Tell him Iím right."

I took a long sip of wine to prolong the suspense. "Well, Joe," I began, "your friend here gave an interesting description of how my inflated balloon trick might be done. With the proper preparation, his suggestion should work. But," and I wagged a finger, "itís not how I do it."

My accuserís gaiety vanished. "What do you mean, asshole? You told me I was right."

Asshole? "Actually, everyone calls me CK, not asshole. No, I said what you proposed may work. I never said you were right."

Now he was angry. "Youíre just blowing smoke, old man. Youíre just afraid to admit I beat you."

Now I was really losing my patience. Worse, my break was almost up. "If you know anything about magic, you should know magicians donít reveal their secrets."

"Thatís no secret. Everything you do you can buy in a magic shop!"

"Maybe. Or maybe itís real magic."